Effects of Spirituality & Religiosity on Stress, Anxiety, Depression: Mediation, Moderation, or Moderated Mediation


Gateway Woods Family Services Indiana University School of Medicine


Fairbanks School of Public Health Indiana University School of Medicine

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The extant literature indicates a modestly positive association between religion and psychological adjustment. However, the role that spirituality plays in wellbeing relative to both high and low levels of religiosity is not well known. The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which daily spiritual experiences mediate the association between perceived stress and symptoms of anxiety / depression, and to further examine the extent to which religious commitment moderates this relationship. In this study, spirituality acted as a partial mediator between perceived stress and psychological adjustment. In addition, both spirituality and religiosity acted as moderators between stress and psychological symptoms. However, religiosity did not act as a significant mediator between stress and psychological adjustment. In addition, religiosity did not seem to significantly moderate the mediating effects of spirituality. Overall, this study confirmed the role of both religiosity and spirituality as effective coping resources. Therefore, mental health professionals should acknowledge religious and spiritual coping as personal resiliency factors.



Over the past several decades, a growing body of evidence suggests a modest association between religiosity/spirituality and psychological health, which in this study was conceptualized as symptoms of anxiety and depression (e.g., Koenig, McCullough, and Larson 2001). This premise is consistent with Lazarus’s Transactional Model of Stress, in which various resources mitigate the relationship between stress and negative outcome. However, the bulk of this research has focused on the traditional construct of religiosity rather than the emergent construct of spirituality. In this study, we operationally define spirituality as ordinary, everyday spiritual experiences that transcend specific religious traditions, orientations, or denominations, and we measure this construct with the Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale (DSES). We further define religiosity as the degree to which a person adheres to religious values, beliefs, and practices, and we measure this construct with the Religious Commitment Inventory (RCI). Under these definitions and within these measures, spirituality is conceptualized as an internal, personal, subjective, and private experience that can be present at all levels of religiosity, while religiosity is conceptualized in terms of collective, institutional, visible, and public factors; thus, not all religious individuals are spiritual, and not all spiritual individuals are religious. It is currently unknown to what extent the traditional research regarding religiosity and psychological health